About the Big Personality Test

Illustration of pencil and checkboxes

Find out everything you need to know about the latest experiment from Lab UK and the science behind it. What is your personality fingerprint and how will discovering your Big Five traits help scientists better understand how personality might shape your life?

The Big Personality Test is designed to answer the question: do our personalities shape our lives or do our lives shape our personalities?

By answering simple questions about things like your lifestyle, preferences, relationships and background, you will be helping scientists to understand more about the extent to which our personalities are shaped by a whole range of influences.

Example personality graph
The Big Five test is one of the most widely used psychological measures

(And at the end of the test you get detailed video feedback from Professor Robert Winston, in addition to a range of other fascinating insights about what makes you you. You will also get an opportunity to share your results with friends and family.)

Invite someone to take the test

The Big Personality Test is about to enter an exciting new phase. We have just added the ability to invite your family, partners and friends to take part in the study. The relationship between you and the people you invite will also form part of the data the scientists look at. (Don’t worry – you and the people you invite will remain completely anonymous!)

Why is this important? Because for the first time it will allow scientists to study on a large scale the relationship between an individual’s personality and the personalities of the people around them.

Invite someone to take the test

What is personality?

The idea of ‘personality’ is familiar to everyone, but what does it actually mean? Broadly speaking, ‘personality’ describes the patterns of behaviour, thought and emotion that make a person unique.

Research has found that personality tends to be fairly consistent throughout our lives, and that key aspects of personality may already be in place when we are very young. But does the personality we are born with determine the direction of our lives, or do the things that happen in our lives shape our personality as we grow older?

There are many theories of how personality develops, but in order to test and improve these theories, scientists need to study real personalities. By participating in the Big Personality Test, many thousands of people are directly helping scientists to understand this important and fascinating subject.

The Big Five

The Big Personality Test works out your ‘Big Five’ traits (which we refer to as ‘your unique personality fingerprint’). The Big Five test, or ‘Five Factor’ personality test, is a widely recognised and well-used scientific measure of personality.

The traits it measures are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism (OCEAN). But be careful - these terms may not mean what you think they mean!

  • Openness describes to what extent you are receptive to novel ideas, creative experiences and different values.
  • Conscientiousness describes to what extent you are organised, strategic and forward-planning.
  • Extroversion describes to what extent you are inclined to experience positive emotions and how attracted you are to social, stimulating experiences.
  • Agreeableness describes to what extent you are concerned about the feelings of others and how easily you form bonds with people.
  • Neuroticism describes to what extent you react to perceived threats and stressful situations.

The Big Five test is generally acknowledged as the most stable measure of personality over time. This means that someone who takes the test even years apart is likely get a similar result both times.

Personality tests

Personality tests crop up everywhere and are used for all sorts of things, from calculating your suitability for employment to measuring your compatibility with a potential partner. It’s fair to say that they cover the full range, from rigorously scientific to speculative fluff.

In the early 20th century, psychology was still in its infancy. In order to compare one personality with another, scientists needed standard ways of measuring aspects of personality and much effort was put into devising scientific tests to describe and reveal them. Since then, personality tests have proliferated into a bewildering array of systems and methods.

The Big Five test is based on the idea that the differences in our personalities will, over generations, have become ‘encoded’ in the language we speak. By interpreting the language we speak, researchers arrived at the conclusion that there are just five major traits that fully describe personality.

By the early 1990s, most psychologists had reached consensus on the Big Five, providing psychologists with a standard framework for the first time. What was unique about this model was that it came from observing the natural language we speak, rather than being based on a theory unsupported by evidence.

A sign pointing towards success
Does your personality have an effect on your future?

Personality and destiny

Lots of things influence the direction our lives take. For example, studies have shown that doing well at school and getting ahead in your career are both linked to your socio-economic status growing up. But we don’t have the full story.

Is there also a relationship between your personality traits and how successful you are in education or at work? If so, how strong is it? Could specific traits also determine the quality of your relationships, your health, your aspirations, or even how happy you are?

In short, could your personality also be your destiny? We don’t know, but we hope that with your help the Big Personality Test will take us much, much closer to finding the answer, and that hopefully you will discover quite a few interesting things about yourself along the way.

The Big Personality Test was designed BBC Lab UK and Child of Our Time in collaboration with Professor Michael Lamb and Dr Jason Rentfrow of Cambridge University. Professor Michael Lamb is the Head of Social and Developmental Psychology at Cambridge and is interested in the study of social and emotional development. Dr Jason Rentfrow is a lecturer with research interests in psychological characteristics and person-environment interactions.

More on The Big Personality Test

Also on Lab UK

  • What is Lab UK?

    More about the website where you can take part in real science experiments.

  • Also on Lab UK

    Does brain training actually work? Find out more.

  • Web Behaviour Test

    Learn about your browsing style and discover your Web Animal.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.